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EGYPT'S MOST FAMED SNAKE-CHARMER   247
control over one's temper when dealing with snakes. He had been engaged, at the end of the summer season, to dear a large building of snakes, and had had a successful "bag" of all the reptiles in the place—except one. The latter was a small but vicious specimen of viper. The snake had encamped inside a hole in the kitchen, from which it obstinately refused to emerge. Again and again the charmer called it forth but without response. At last, he lost his temper and, instead of uttering a fresh invocation to meet the necessity, shouted: "If I cannot charm you to come out—then I will catch you, anyway!" With that Moussa's grandfather plunged his hand into the hole, and tried to grasp the viper. He succeeded and dragged it out, but in doing so got his thumb bitten. As the sharpfangs dosed upon his skin, they injected their deadly poison into the flesh. When the venom spread along his hand and arm, the latter swelled out into a huge lump and turned quite black. Within a few hours the unfortunate man died. After a lifetime of immunity during the practice of his calling, he had suddenly been deprived of it. That was a risk of this profession, said the Sheikh; but it was all Allah's will.
It was apparent that snake^harming in Egypt was hardly a vocation to attract numerous recruits, as I had heard of other fatalities. Yet in India I had heard of few charmers being killed. Neverthdess, among the uninitiated populace of India no less than twenty-six thousand had fallen victims to the fatal bites of venomous serpents during the past year—most of the latter snakes being cobras.
Moussa proposed to impart to me a knowledge that would turn away the bite of the most venomous serpent. He bared his right arm above the dbow and showed me a cord bracdet of seven small sewn leather talisman-cases, each about an inch and a quarter square. They made a gaudy display with their various colours, an effect which was enhanced by the coloured woollen skeins of thread whereby they were attached. He explained that each of those flat tiny bags contained a paper inscribed with certain verses of the Quran together with some magical spells.
CU always wear these as an extra protection against dangerous snakes/* he informed me. "These talismans nave been made by the doctrines of magic. It is necessary that you should have one too, and therefore I shall prepare it. Soon I shall bring the written paper first and show you its power."